The first trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be debuting in a small number of theaters across North America on Friday. Lucasfilm announced that the trailer will play before movies at 30 theaters starting this Friday and continuing through the weekend:
The trailer runs for 88 seconds and will begin playing worldwide on Monday. Regal Cinemas says that the trailer will be playing before all of the movies it's showing, and it's likely that that will be the case at other theaters as well.
The theatrical premiere is an interesting choice for Disney and Lucasfilm, but it'll get Star Wars straight onto the big screen and during one of the biggest moviegoing days of the year. Regal Cinemas says these showings will constitute the trailer's "world premiere," so it really does seem as though you'll need to head out to a movie theater if you want to catch it first. One would imagine that the trailer will be published online eventually, but Disney seems to be interested in kicking things off with a more cinematic experience. (Plus, there's likely a profit motive involved for both it and supporting theaters during this initial weekend.)
Early reports suggest the trailer is short and simple
Reports have been coming out for about a week now describing what this first trailer may be like. Filming on The Force Awakens is complete, but it is likely far from polished enough for this to be a very revealing trailer — and the film is a full year away from coming out. Instead, various outlets have reported that the trailer will likely be composed of quick shots of each of the film's stars as a way to introduce them. While that wouldn't show much, that would still be one of the most detailed looks at Episode VII to date.
Disney has been extremely secretive throughout the production of The Force Awakens, though it hasn't been entirely unresponsive to fans. As leaks started coming out during filming over the summer, director J.J. Abrams began releasing small teases of the film. He tweeted out a photo that appeared to be taken inside the Millennium Falcon, and in charity videos he showed off a new X-Wing and a new alien, too.
Star Wars fans may remember that Lucasfilm pulled a similar stunt to promote the first Star Wars prequel, though distributing a trailer over the internet at that time obviously would have been far less effective. A New York Times report from 1998 says that a trailer running just over two minutes long for The Phantom Menace played on 75 screens in 26 states and had fans showing up to theaters just to watch it and then leave before their movie started. Lucasfilm had teased the trailer's premiere online four days earlier — much like it's doing today.
The Force Awakens will be released on December 18th, 2015.
Update 4PM ET: this article has been updated to include the full list of theaters that will screen The Force Awakens' trailer. This article originally included only the nine theaters that Regal Cinemas announced earlier this morning.